“Secondly, oh brother are you mistaken”…?
(Sorry, couldn’t resist…!)
- I’m not assuming anything
Well, your scenarios hinged on the fact that the unbaptized had no access to sanctifying grace, and therefore, lacked it. I’m only pointing out that the lack of baptism does not, per se, imply a lack of sanctifying grace (since God might supply it on His own initiative).
in principle, God is able to infuse sanctifying grace into one’s soul in an extraordinary manner. But this is not Church doctrine - hence my confusion.
In fact, it is Church doctrine that God is able to do so. Otherwise, how could the Church teach, as she does, that those who do not know Christ through no fault of their own may yet be saved?
- By “saved” I include those souls who are imperfectly purified from sin. You’re right - if God provides the soul with sanctifying grace, then they are saved. The question is: does He? If so, how and when? I am content with not knowing; I am not looking for speculative theology so much as theological principles that might help me to answer my questions.
Ahh, there’s the rub.
We don’t know – and we can’t know – the ‘how’ and ‘when’ here, other than to say ‘by God’s unfathomable grace’ and ‘whenever He wishes’. Nothing else has been given to us in God’s self-revelation.
- By Limbo I mean a state of natural happiness.
Yet, this is not a doctrine of the Church. Yes, it’s been debated and discussed and taught as a theory, but it is not doctrine. Have you read The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized? Its comments on the history of the notion of Limbo is quite interesting…
Limbo cannot be discounted so easily; certainly not without grave implications for unbaptised infants, given the Church’s teaching on this issue (i.e. that those who die in original sin only do not attain the Beatific Vision).
This only holds if by “unbaptized infants” you mean “those who die in original sin”, and therefore implying “those who die without the gratuitous gift of sanctifying grace given by God”. We cannot know with any kind of certainty that this is the case with unbaptized infants.
The Church does not go so far as this; she teaches that we may hope for their salvation (by an extraordinary act of God’s mercy, outside of the “ordinary” course of things).
Correct. And our ‘hope’ does not lie in the presence or absence of this mercy, but rather, is simply an expression of the fact that we do not know how this mercy is applied – and therefore, all we can say about it is that we know God is merciful and so we have reason to hope that applies to unbaptized infants.
I think it would be relevant to point out that there’s a world of difference between what secular ‘hope’ is and what ‘Christian hope’ is. Secular hope says, “I have no idea whether it’s gonna rain during our picnic today, but gee, I sure wish that it doesn’t!” Christian hope, though, isn’t merely wishful thinking: it’s belief in things unseen. We do not see souls in heaven, but through the eyes of faith, we know that God redeems His people. Therefore, in Christian hope, we know that it’s true. I would assert that this is the context that the Church asserts its hope in the salvation of unbaptized infants. We know that God wants all to be saved; we know that He is able to provide His grace in ways beyond those that are given to us as our normative means of salvation; we know that His mercy is boundless. We just don’t know “with sure knowledge”; therefore, we have Christian hope.
(I do not wish to argue this point, by the way. I only want to refute the false notion that Limbo is an impossibility.
Unicorns are not an impossibility, either. Are you saying that you wish to argue for the existence of Limbo, or simply the much weaker statement that it is not a formal impossibility? (I’ll grant you the assertion that neither unicorns nor Limbo are formal impossibilities, of course. But… do you wish to argue for anything more than that?)